Krayzie Bone has been talking about Chasing The Devil for years. Today it’s finally available. In this exclusive conversation with HipHopDX, the Bone Thugs N Harmony member details the reason for the delay.
“I had to jump over a lot of obstacles while recording this album—just from a physical sickness to just going through a whole bunch of stuff,” Krayzie says. “It seemed like the devil was really against me with this one. It seemed like it was extra pressures just hearing the fans talk about how this album ain’t never coming out, how it’s going to be a Detox. I just stayed focused…I think overall I was able to capture my experiences from my whole life and make them sound fresh.”
This year, Bone Thugs celebrated the 20th anniversary of their classic debut, East 1999 Eternal. The Ruthless Records-release was executive produced by their mentor, Eazy-E. Krayzie shares what he believes the Compton legend would think of Bone Thugs’ legacy.
“He would definitely be proud,” Krayzie says Leatherface. “But I think he would not be happy fully because he’d probably be thinking ‘Y’all are supposed to be way way beyond this.’ We did good just for being some dudes off the street that didn’t know nothing. Just to take our own destiny in our hands, we did good.”
Krayzie Bone reflects on his first solo project, Thug Mentality, and how in retrospect, Bone Thugs N Harmony should have released more group projects before going solo. Also, in the second video embedded, Steve Lobel joins Krayzie and the two rank each album in Bone Thugs’ catalog.
The Meaning Behind Chasing The Devil
HipHopDX: I feel like you’ve been talking about this album since the first Obama administration. For your fans, why did you keep pushing the album back?
Krayzie Bone: To me, it’s all about timing and feeling like the timing is right. The situations I was in at the time when I first announced it, I knew then wasn’t the time for some reason. It just wasn’t the time because the things I had going on in my life personally. It was a lot of things. I just think it couldn’t be a more perfect time than now. I think everything fell into place how it should. That’s the reason I finally felt comfortable saying the album was done and we can get it out.
DX: The title, Chasing The Devil, threw some fans for a loop just given your spiritual journey over the course of your career—even staying away from some of these themes you’re addressing on the project. What does the title mean?
Krayzie Bone: I just want to let everybody know what I don’t mean, because there’s a lot of misconceptions of the title. It doesn’t mean that I’m actually chasing the devil. I’m actually talking about certain things that we pursue in life sometimes that have evil motives behind them. You can be chasing the devil if you’re a politician trying to get power. You can be chasing the devil if you’re a normal person trying to get money and fame. I’m not necessarily saying that it’s evil to chase those things, but when you do it and all you think about is being rich or being that person, that’s something totally different.
DX: The hook on “Chasing A Nightmare” goes “I thought I was chasing a dream / Turned out I was chasing a nightmare.”
Krayzie Bone: We sit up here and look at these videos and to the younger generation it looks appealing. They’re just seeing what comes on TV. They’re not behind the scenes. They’re not in this music business. They don’t know how it actually operates. But when you’re somebody like me that’s been in it for 21 years, you see it all—the good, the bad, the ugly. When you’ve been here for as long as I have, at this time you start to feel a certain way about it. You’re either blind to it and everything is OK, or you’re sitting back like, “This ain’t really what I thought it was gonna be.” That’s my perception of it.
DX: Political themes show up almost out the gate on this album. “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” and “The Money The Power” both have quotes from each President Bush. Is that an intentional representation about how you feel about the state of the world?
Krayzie Bone: There’s definitely a very influential “me, me, me” spirit to the world today. Everybody wants it now, everybody wants to be that man on top to the point where, in music, that’s why you don’t see that many groups no more. Everybody wants to be that person that shines. And if groups do come out, they only last for one to two albums and then everybody wants to go solo. That spirit of the world is definitely present now. It’s an arrogant spirit.
DX: How much of that perspective comes from things you’ve experienced as part of the group? When we spoke before, we talked about how on The Art Of War, there were definitely fractures within the group before the album came out. Bizzy Bone didn’t even put the war paint on for the album cover, for example. Then after that, people started going solo. Bizzy went solo. You went solo. Bone Thugs basically went two and a half projects before you all went solo.
Krayzie Bone: Before we met Eazy-E, we had our whole structure laid out. We had the structure for Mo’ Thugs laid out already way in advance. We had the structure for what we were going to do solo. We were going to do group albums then in between those, [solo] albums. We had everything structured, but when [fame] came and the impact, we wasn’t ready for it. It came so fast and it came so big. We were still in awe and everything was hitting us at once. We never really got to execute our plan the way we wanted to because by that time we were just in awe over the whole “living the life.” We were now celebrities. It was just crazy.
Krayzie Bone: I think it would’ve been much different. We were already young and rebellious. After E died and she stepped in, everything was foreign. Everything was crazy to us in the first place because when E was alive, he had this big roster of artists. When she took over, everyone was gone. It was just a selected few and we was one of those selected few. We didn’t know what the motives were. We were just those young dudes that had it in our heads that something ain’t right and everyone is against us. So we rebelled to the point that we rebelled against each other. It was a crazy time.
DX: I’ve heard a number of different artists discuss the environment in Ruthless once Tamika took over. Ural Garrett did an interview last week with Alan Grunblatt, President of eOne. He worked East 1999 Eternal. He said something I never realized. He mentioned that Tamika was the one who made the decision to remix “Crossroads.” The way people talk about that era, I never thought she did anything good.
Krayzie Bone: Especially after E passed away, we thought it was a perfect time because not only did Eazy pass away, but we had other people pass away as well. She did have some input on that, definitely.
DX: Did she have creative input or was it simply her idea to do the tribute song?
Krayzie Bone: I think she pretty much just mentioned it and we were all agreed with it because of the moment, the time. It just felt like it was something we should do. We were actually doing it to pay homage and show love for our ones that passed away. We didn’t go in there thinking we were making a hit. We were thinking about our people and it took off.
DX: Do you remember the first time you saw the treatment for that video? One of my favorite music video moments is when the reaper touches Uncle Charles on the forehead and his eyes turn black.
Krayzie Bone: When we were shooting it, I really didn’t think nothing of it. I just remember being on the set and it was cold. They were using fake rain. I was sick. I was like, “Man, we’re going through a whole lot for this video. It better come out good.” When we saw it and I saw all the effects and the way the room reacted when we first saw it, I knew it was something big.
DX: You’ve compared Chasing The Devil several times now to your first solo album, Thug Mentality. Last time we spoke we talked about how much more input you had on The Art Of War than the other members of the group. Then you followed that up with your own double disk. It’s like you made four albums in two years. Chasing The Devil sounds a lot like that time period with the war between good and evil and the internal struggle.
Krayzie Bone: That’s definitely the mindset. With this whole album, I basically took everything that I’ve experienced in my 21 year career. We’ve seen a lot of stuff. I tell people all the time, when it’s time to do the Bone Thugs N Harmony movie, I understand Hollywood likes to put in their little stuff, but there’s enough action in our lives to where you won’t have to add that much. It is all real. That’s basically what this album is. I’m just showing people from my point of view how I first perceived the business. When I was getting into it, I was anxious and happy and this is what I wanted to do. Then over time when I started learning how it operates, if you’re not on your game you can get caught up. It’s a learning experience definitely.
Thug Mentality & Heaven’s Movie
DX: One of the most powerful songs on the album is “The Devil’s Deal.” It’s a narrative that seems to set the tone for the rest of the album.
Krayzie Bone: Starting with that song is the basic overall concept of the album. That song is what drives the whole album. Then after that song, if you listen to the end of it, I actually took the deal. Then the next song, “Rise Of A King (Fall Of A Fool)” is when [the devil] gives me everything that I was chasing after and I get it and I’m at the top. Then, “Chasing Nightmares” is where I finally realize I made a bad decision with the deal I made. Those three songs set up the whole theme of the whole album.
DX: One of my favorite bars on “Chasing Nightmares” is “And the game showed me its shadiness when I realized that my favorite rapper was faking it / He had me thinking it was all about the gangsta shit / Most of them singing but them niggas ain’t saying shit.” That sounds like the theme to The Art Of War to me. When you guys were coming out with your melodic style, did it feel risky? Did you feel like your style was so original that it possibly could run contrary to what people considered Hip Hop?
Krayzie Bone: Definitely. I remember one time we was in Cleveland. When we first came out, everyone thought it was a Cleveland-sound or a Midwest sound. We had never heard nobody that rapped like we rapped. We considered it a Bone sound. It was so different that one of my friends in the hood was like, “Y’all should come to this bar with me. They have gong shows.” We think we’re about to go in there and get on the mic and everybody’s about to love it. We get to rapping our little style with the harmonies. Next thing we know we hear “GONG!” They were like, “Yo that shit is wack! Get that shit out of here! We don’t want to hear that oriental sound.” They dogged us. We got into a fight over the shit that night. It wasn’t like we did the singing on purpose. We knew each other’s lyrics so good that while one person was rapping, we were harmonizing the ad-libs. We all would do it at the same time to where it sounded like we was harmonizing. It gradually turned into the style it did.
Eazy-E first heard us rapping fast. We rapped over the phone for him and he didn’t know nothing about the harmony part until we went into the studio. Then when we did the intro, the first thing we did was “East 1999 is where you’ll find us slanging that yayo.” He was like, “What the fuck? Y’all niggas can sing, too? This is crazy!” From then on, the beats we started getting, we started listening to the melodies and coming up with the hooks. That’s where it came from. I honestly think New York was the last ones to accept us, but it was so undeniable they had to eventually [give us respect]. It was like, “Yo, these dudes aren’t just singing. They’re talking some real shit in their lyrics.” It went over real good once everybody got used to it.
DX: What was the most challenging thing about creating Thug Mentality?
Krayzie Bone: I’d have to say that was the easiest album to make because I had so much material and so much stuff backed up. We was fresh, still not that far from being on the streets. I still had a lot of material that I had that I wanted to get off my chest. It was a breeze.
DX: Was Thug Mentality was made up of throwaway tracks?
Krayzie Bone: No. A lot of those tracks, I had the ideas [first] and then I went in and laid them straight out. Some of the stuff was from what we didn’t use from Art Of War. On Art Of War, I would basically start the songs off and everyone else would just come in and do what they do. What dudes didn’t use, I just kept stashed away and when it was time work on my album, I just brought them out.
DX: Did you listen to Bizzy Bone’s Heaven’s Movie before it was released? What did you think about that project?
Krayzie Bone: There was a couple songs on there that I was really digging. I honestly felt he should’ve held off and put more time into it. He should’ve made sure there was some unity in it as far as the group’s presence. I tell everybody in the group all the time that I think we missed out because when we did those solo projects, the Bone presence wasn’t there so it didn’t look like we was family. So people were torn as far as who to support. That’s definitely what I told him. It was a good album overall. Definitely a classic.
DX: When I listen to that album, it feels like an escape for Bizzy Bone. It felt like he was exhaling. Just knowing him, was that the space he seemed to be in at that time?
Krayzie Bone: We was feeling that even before the album came about, just from the stuff we was going through when we was trying to promote the previous group albums. We knew something was up. At one point, everyone thought that maybe he needed to get this solo album out of his system. He was the whole reason the whole solo thing was initiated. I told everybody that it was too early to do solo projects. The group is hot right now. Let’s wait to do that. He was anxious so everybody was like, “Let him do what he want to do.” I was like, “Cool.” I was nominated to go second. I wasn’t even tripping. But I had a lot of music done already and they were like, “Why don’t you go right after him?” I was like, “Cool. Let’s do it.”
DX: This album seems to touch on recent challenges in your life as well.
Krayzie Bone: It’s all part of everything from back then until now. I had to jump over a lot of obstacles while recording this album—just from a physical sickness to just going through a whole bunch of stuff. It seemed like the devil was really against me with this one. It seemed like it was extra pressures. Just hearing the fans talk about how this album ain’t never coming out, how it’s going to be a Detox. I just stayed focused. That’s why you have songs on the album like “Cloudy” because there were times when I was feeling like that. I think overall I was able to capture my experiences from my whole life and make them sound fresh because some of them are new challenges that I’m going through today just going through the industry how it is now and the ways you gotta maneuver around it. It’s way different so that’s a challenge in itself.
DX: You’ve been really consistent releasing music. Away from this project, you were putting out street tapes in one way or another. How’s the industry changed since then? Are you positioning this album or presenting this album in a new way?
Krayzie Bone: It’s always cool to have new fans come in and learn about who you are, but I’m basically concentrating on our core fan base—the ones that are really into it already because they’re going to be the ones to spread the word if it is going to go further than them. People can hear me all day talk about “buy my album.” I think word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to promote.
DX: The tracklist says “Brand New Everything” features Bone Thugs N Harmony. Are the other members on the hook? Bizzy is the only one that gets a verse.
Krayzie Bone: It’s actually just me and Bizzy on that song. If it’s two or more members, it’s Bone Thugs N Harmony. It’s just basically wanting a change from the norm. Everything that I’ve been through is cool, but now I’m on a whole different mission now. Just looking for a brand new everything. Everything that comes after this is brand new, brand new situations. Everything is different for me now.
DX: Is there anything specifically that you want your fans to know about [Chasing The Devil]?
Krayzie Bone: I want them to know that the reason for the album is to enlighten people, to wake people up from the norm that you hear in the music industry. Like I said earlier, a lot of things are repetitive and sound the same. I listened to the radio one day and heard a bunch of beats that sound the same. Anytime you can take a different harmony from another song and sing it on this beat and it goes, something is wrong. I always try to do something different on every song. There’s no way in hell I can say this rap on this beat right here. I did a lot of work making sure all the songs compliment each other as far as the tracks. This is not an album to where you’re going to dance to it. This is an album that when you’re serious or deep thinking, you can put this on and just vibe to it. You can ride to it. It’s very uplifting and very educational.
DX: I think your fans will be surprised by the production on this album. You intentionally wanted to switch the type of beats that you typically use.
Krayzie Bone: Yeah because when I went into the studio with the producers, everybody want to be like, “I got a beat that I thought of. It sounds just like Bone.” I was like, “Bro, let me hear the beats that you think that Bone wouldn’t use. That’s what I want to hear. Don’t just try to sell me stuff that you think sounds good with Bone. I’m on other stuff, too.” I want to always mix it up like that and keep the same chemistry and be outside the box like that. The next album, the second volume [of Chasing The Devil] is going to be a different mix than you hear on this. It’s going to be very very different.
Eazy-E & Straight Outta Compton
DX: Have you ever thought about what Eazy would think about [Bone Thugs N Harmony] at this point?
Krayzie Bone: He would definitely be proud, but I think he would not be happy fully because he’d probably be thinking “Y’all are supposed to be way way beyond this.” We did good just for being some dudes off the street that didn’t know nothing. Just to take our own destiny in our hands, we did good. I think if we would’ve had the knowledge and someone to guide us and show us the real right way to go, it would’ve been even better. We’re blessed because we’re still here and we still have a chance to add on to our legacy. That’s always a wonderful thing.
DX: 2015 was a weird year in Eazy-E news. Obviously, Straight Outta Compton came out. It was a big year for Compton. A lot of old conversations were brought up this year by the Suge Knight and Eazy-E studio scene in the movie. Then there was the clip of Suge Knight on Jimmy Kimmel talking about how Eazy died from an AIDS needle. Then Frost did an interview saying Eazy contracted AIDS from acupuncture. What do you think about all this?
Krayzie Bone: It’s crazy, man. There’s all kinds of conspiracy theories in the air. I never get caught up in that. What’s done is done. Whoever did it, they may have gotten away with it now, but at some point in their lives, they’re going to have to answer to it. Just enjoy getting away with it now because God knows everything and he sees everything. That’s all I’m gonna say about it.
DX: One of the coolest moments of the movie for me was when the tape was on the table in Eazy-E’s hospital room. It was a real chilling moment for me.
Krayzie Bone: It was crazy for me when I saw the scene where he ran into Ice Cube at The Tunnel. I think Steve Lobel was there. It was crazy to me because we ran into two major figures in Hip Hop that we really looked up to. One was when we first walked up to the door with Eazy and Lobel, I remember Heavy D being at the door like he was a bouncer. He was talking to us. Eazy introduced us and he was like, “Man, I heard y’all music. Y’all are dope.” We was like, “Heavy D said he heard our music. We the shit now!” Then we walk inside through the crowd. Right before Eazy seen Cube, I felt some body tug on my hood. I turned around and it was LL Cool J in a big white mink coat and a white mink hat talking about, “Big ups to y’all music. It’s the shit. I love y’all boys.” I was like, “Oh shit! Two in one night! It’s going down!” It was a real epic night. To see that part in the movie brought chills.